Posts Tagged ‘Sport’

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

June 5, 2018

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One of the perks of being a part-time academic is having to do lots of unpaid work aimed at raising one’s profile within your discipline. However, sometimes this work is more a pleasure than a chore. Such is the case with being a co-convenor on the IHR’s (Institute of Historical Research) Sport and Leisure History seminar series.

Our next seminar is led by Dr Melanie Bassett of the University of Portsmouth who will be talking about the role of sport in the training and recreation of workers in the Royal Dockyard in Portsmouth. Having just spent a couple of days in Portsmouth myself I can testify to the continuing importance of sport in the culture of the Royal Navy, especially given the amount of land given over to sports grounds in the city centre.

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The Royal Dockyard glittering in the Pompey sun 

Abstract

Royal Dockyard workers in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain were an essential component of Britain’s imperial defence. They were employees of the state who built the nation’s fighting ships. However, in an era of ‘high imperialism’, preoccupied with efficiency and racial degeneration, the Admiralty paid very little mind to the fitness and health of a vital and highly skilled section of their workforce.

In contrast to the men of the Royal Navy, who were by the late 1880s subject to the beginnings of a movement to ensure their efficiency and moral welfare through gymnastic instruction, the Royal Dockyard Workers’ activities were not centralised, nor were they particularly encouraged. Instead, the availability of sporting provisions was generated by the workmen themselves and more akin to what was occurring in other industrialised workforces but without the paternalism.

The paper will outline and evaluate the context which shaped the sporting and physical fitness provisions for Royal Dockyard workers during the period. It will first explore the contextual historiography to show where gender, class, and imperialism have intersected in order to illustrate how historical enquiry can inform an understanding of sport and the British people. The paper will then address the differences in attitudes and provisions for military and civilian employees of the Admiralty before turning to explore working-class exposure to prevailing attitudes to sport, masculinity, and the British Empire. Finally, the paper will highlight how the Royal Dockyard worker used the discourses of imperial efficiency and self-improvement to gain advantages in a world of expanding leisure opportunities.

The examples will show the wide ranges of sporting activities in which Royal Dockyard workers took part and will also explore the idea of ‘playing at being soldiers’ through involvement in the Volunteer and Territorial Forces was viewed by the Admiralty. Rather than being merely ‘caught’ in the intricate web of imperial discourse, this paper will demonstrate the innovative and self-starting attitude of various Royal Dockyard workers and the rhetoric they employed in order to turn the situation to their advantage.

Dr. Bassett will be speaking in the Past and Present room at the IHR at 5.30pm on Monday 11th June 2018. 

#History #royalnavy #Portsmouth

UPDATE: Frantz Reichel and French Sport Cancelled

February 22, 2018

Alas Frantz will have to wait. Due to industrial action Senate House will be picketed on Monday 26th February and not wishing to cross the picket line the Sport and Leisure History seminar will thus be postponed to a future date tba.

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In the meantime why not enjoy this picture of Walter Rothschild riding a tortoise from CB Fry’s Magazine (1906) and apply to it a metaphor of your choosing. Who/what is the tortoise? What is the lure? Whom the rider?

Frantz Reichel and French Sport

February 17, 2018

Just a quick post to flag up a forthcoming paper that I’ll giving at the Institute of Historical Research on one of the neglected figures of early twentieth century sporting history.

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The photograph above is of the memorial to Frantz Reichel, Olympic champion, French Rugby Union captain and the doyenne of French sports journalists for the first 30 years of the twentieth century. Although neglected now it was a significant intervention into the urban fabric of Paris when it was erected in the 1930s.

I’ll be talking about the symbolism of Reichel’s memorial, the surprising story behind its design  by Tony Garnier, and the turbulent story of its destruction under Nazi rule.

If you’d like to come along to the paper it will be in the Past and Present room at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House on Monday 26th February at 5.30 p.m. Entry is FREE.

More details can be found here … http://www.history.ac.uk/events/event/15430

Or if you’d like to know more contact me @finsburyparker

#frenchhistory #France #History #sporthistory #IHR #tonygarnier

Publication: Cricket in the West Indies

October 31, 2017

Thanks to those generous folks at Taylor and Francis the first 50 people to access my latest article, The ‘White Man’s Game’? West Indian Cricket Tours of the 1900s can access the article for free at the link below …

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/pFQ2VR6CR42ynrWFdWVC/full

It’s not just for academic specialists, I think the general reader who is interested in the history of cricket, the Caribbean or the British Empire would find it worth a look. I would write a summary here but it’s easier to reprint the abstract …

The 1900s saw two tours of the United Kingdom (UK) by a mixed race cricket team representing the West Indies. This paper argues that the tours were part of a concerted cultural campaign largely organized by the West India Committee to raise the profile of the British West Indian colonies in the Mother Country in the light of competition for favour among the settler colonies. It analyzes the selection of the team and its reception in the UK to argue that the existing literature has been mistaken in portraying the team to have been subject to consistent hostility due to the inclusion of black players in the touring party. Rather it is argued that the team of 1900 was largely welcomed as a truly representative West Indian team but that by 1906 a tightening of the definition of who could represent the empire on the sports field, influenced by the settlement of the South Africa War, meant that mixed race cricket would be rejected and the West Indians unjustly excluded from the Imperial Cricket Conference, which became an all whites club.

I should also warn that it discusses a distasteful, racist cartoon from the Edwardian period whose significance in the coverage of the tour I question. And I balance that illustration with some more positive coverage of the first West Indian teams to tour the UK in the 1900s.

YouthWI

‘Youthful cricketers’

#cricket #westindies

Two Parisian modernist landmarks

October 28, 2015
Front elevation of the Maison de Verre

Front elevation of the Maison de Verre

I was very lucky recently to be taken on a guided tour of a hidden away modernist gem in the back streets of Paris. The Maison de Verre was designed by Pierre Chareau and his collaborators for the gynaecologist Dr. John Dalsace to act as both family residence and practice centre. The house is privately owned but opened up to a limited number of architecture enthusiasts for guided tours of the public spaces and garden.

The house owes its name to the fact that its walls, front and rear, are constructed almost entirely of glass bricks. Such a design is the supreme expression of a hygienic architecture that had its origins in nineteenth century theories about the importance of light and air circulation to counter the threat of disease in the home or clinic. If you’re wondering how anyone could maintain any privacy in such conditions Chareau, who had experience in  theatre design, installed projectors that flood the front and rear of the house with light so that the movements of the residents are indistinguishable to an external observer.

Pierre Chareau and his collaborators stake their claim

Pierre Chareau and his collaborators stake their claim

Family areas (understandably) are off limits on the tour, which is a shame as one of the wonders of the building is its ingenious use of sliding panels, curtains and interlinking architectural features to allow the interior of the house to be adapted for use as consulting rooms, salon or domestic residence as the occasion demands. I’m still curious as to how such imaginative use of space could be applied in a 1920s kitchen or bathroom on a miniature scale.

Maison de Verre from the garden

Maison de Verre from the garden. There’s an interesting story behind the absence of glass brick on  the top floor.

Our guide emphasised that while the house may look like a draft for of a 1920s house of the future it was in fact very much grounded in existing practice; especially in using techniques and materials appropriated from railway carriages, cruise liners, aircraft and theatres. The Maison de Verre has many similar features to the houses of Le Corbusier but rather than being a cerebral, theory-led project along Corbusian lines its emergence was rather more of a bricolage of trial and error that I think gives it a more homespun feel than the (very few) Le Corbusier projects that I’ve seen.

The house is beautiful and if you have a chance to visit, take it.

While in Paris I also took the time to visit another modernist, or quasi-modernist, project in which I’m interested as an academic. The Monument Frantz Reichel, which stands beside the Stade Jean Bouin in the west of Paris, was erected to commemorate a sportsman-journalist who died at his desk at Le Figaro in 1932. It was sculpted by Alexandre Maspoli (who was also a wrestling champion in his youth!) and designed by the modernist architect Tony Garnier, a contemporary of Chareau.

Monument Frantz Reichel in its pomp

Monument Frantz Reichel in its pomp

Reichel is something of a forgotten man in French sport – the closest figure I can compare him to in England is CB Fry, the great cricketer of the early twentieth century. Reichel, like Fry, was not just an all round sportsman. He was also an intellectual who made his living from journalism who saw sport as being central to the development of society.

Reichel competed at rugby, the 400m and the 110m hurdles at the Olympic Games in 1896 and 1900 and was also Boxing Heavyweight Champion of France in 1904. All the while he produced enormous amounts of journalism, as well as being a central figure in French and world sports administration right up to his sudden death of a heart attack. His Monument bears the simple legend, ‘Le Sport Français’. It is as if at his death he somehow embodied sport in France.

Of course the idea that someone like Reichel (or Fry for that matter), an upper-class, white man could embody something as diverse in participation as sport is something that has been broken down over the course of the twentieth and twenty first centuries as people of different genders, ethnicities and physical and mental abilities have seen their participation and excellence at sport celebrated.

However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate the career of someone like Reichel, especially in the week that the final of the Rugby Union World Cup is to be played. Reichel really was the driving force behind French rugby as both participant and organiser for some twenty years before the First World War. And he was forward looking for his time. My thesis touches on how Reichel encouraged multi-racial rugby in the 1900s, with the French team that played South Africa in January 1907 being captained by Georges Jérome, a grandson of slaves.

The history of Reichel’s memorial is a chequered one – melted down during the Occupation it was shifted to make way for the Périphérique in the 60s and now stands forlornly in a shabby corner of a barren traffic intersection. The weather staining to the stone is natural, the graffiti is not.

Shabby Monument Frantz Reichel

Shabby Monument Frantz Reichel

With the Parc des Prince just a stone’s throw away I wonder who is responsible for the neglect of this formidable statue. I’m currently finishing a paper on the history of the statue for a conference next month and hope to complete an article on Reichel by the end of the year, if anyone out there knows more information about him or his statue please get in touch.

On snoooker

April 22, 2015

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Update 28th April 2016

Apparently someone else has found the fat flavour of snooker too strong to resist at Time Out! About time too … the club goes from strength to strength with fresh baize on the tables and the fairground punchbag only intermittently slapped to disconcerting effect.

I noticed rather late that the snooker is upon us. In fact it was hearing Barry Hearn on Fighting Talk that first brought my attention to it. And while Barry tried his best to draw attention to the characters in the modern game the vibe was most definitely that Fings Ain’t What They Used To Be. Take out Ronnie and what have you got? Actually, some spectacularly skilled snooker players who, given the nature of their trade, are ever unlikely to have the physique or skin tone of Christian Ronaldo. And now that most of them are off the sauce they’re a lot less ‘colourful’ than the cue-men of yore.

Some youngsters, or people who only remember the good stuff, might think watching the baize on the box was great in the old days? Really?!? Imagine watching Steve Davies playing Cliff Thorburn. On a Sunday. In the 80s. For four hours. In a small northern (ex-)mining town. When the pubs were shut all afternoon. And there was only Bonanza and Songs of Praise on the other side. Because there were only two other sides.

Who’s hot for the time machine now?

Of course then and now the alternative to bemoaning the state of pro snooker is to go out there and do it yourself. There’s a table near you – you just have to find it. And the barriers to entry are so low! £6 an hour in our local hall (for a twelve foot table – how many games of pool could you get through in an hour for a pound a pop in your local pub?) and the cues they provide, while not perfect, are free. Chalk too. Clean bogs, smoking ban in force nowadays – that was lightly unnerving at first. You can get a drink if you want (bottle of Stella £2.50) and they make a cheese toastie straight out of Ali’s Caff in Albert Square.

So why is it that only me and Travis Jr were in there last week with a smattering of Polish guys? When Wimbledon starts you can’t move for the inept middle classes showing off their latest tennis gear. The Crucible revs up and it’s the skunk eye from sporting north Londoners. Perhaps it’s too sunny outside to enter the dark womb of Ridleys? Perhaps you’re deterred by the shabby exterior? Fear not, inside you have the anonymity of one of the last bastions of working class masculine hegemony. Like the bookie, like the strip club, like the shabby municipal golf course, the snooker hall is the place where nobody wants to know your name. Because they’re escaping too.

And if I haven’t given you reason enough yet, imagine stumbling across this portrait of Jimmy White.

Jimmy White. Geezer.

Jimmy White. Geezer.

He has the wistful, haunted look of Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington (currently displayed in a fine exhibition at the NPG). Only Jimmy never saw a Waterloo. I think the photographer (uncredited) anticipates the tragedy of that.

And by popular demand (well, one person asked if I had another – I can bring you Doug Mountjoy next time around if you like) here’s Ray Reardon. Well, what the low-lit/spotlighted atmosphere of the Green Lanes Snooker Club would allow me to capture of him.

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